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Iowa Governor Signs Nation's Strictest Abortion Law

bill signing
John Pemble/IPR file
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signs the fetal heartbeat abortion bill into law Friday, May 4, 2018.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the country’smost restrictive abortion law Friday afternoon, banning most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

House and Senate Republicans sent the bill to Reynolds earlier this week after back-to-back, late-night votes.

Credit John Pemble / IPR
Protesters chant, "My body, my choice," outside of the governor's office on Friday, May 4, 2018.

Reynolds signed the bill surrounded by children and Republican lawmakers, while protesters chanted outside her office.

“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor, I have pledged to do everything in my power to protect it,” Reynolds said. “That’s what I’m doing today.”

The law is supposed to go into effect July 1. It would effectively ban most abortions after about six weeks into a pregnancy, with limited exceptions for incest, rape, fetal abnormalities, and saving the life of the mother.

At a protest on the steps of the Iowa Capitol Friday, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland CEO Suzanna de Baca said she did not expect Reynolds to sign a law that is “so clearly unconstitutional.”

“And so I’m here to tell Gov. Reynolds, we will see you in court!” de Baca said.

The head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said his organization would also join the lawsuit.

Some supporters of the bill said they want to see a lawsuit. They hope this will lead to the overturn of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Some lawmakers said they want all abortion to eventually be outlawed nationally.

“I understand and I anticipate that this will likely be challenged in court, and that courts may even put on hold a law until it reaches the Supreme Court,” Reynolds said. “However, this is bigger than just a law. This is about life. And I’m not going to back down from who I am or what I believe in.”

Outside of the governor’s office, protesters chanted, “My body, my choice.”

Katie Poirier of Des Moines said it’s a shame that Reynolds signed the bill.

“We’ve already decided this in court in the 1970s. And I think it’s dangerous for women. Women will die from this,” Poirier said. “It’s already happened before, and we’re just repeating history.”

Protesters left wire hangers at Reynolds’ office before she signed the bill. It’s a reference to the days before Roe v. Wade when some women used hangers to try to self-induce abortions.

Republican Rep. Shannon Lundgren of Peosta was a lead proponent of the law.

“We’re moving in the right direction, and that is that we’ve got to protect these vulnerable lives that cannot speak for themselves,” Lundgren said.

In an emailed statement, Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Janet Petersen of Des Moines, said the governor and Republican lawmakers are making the state more dangerous for women.

“This new law is extreme because it restricts the freedom of Iowa women and girls to care for their bodies, and it forces motherhood on Iowa women,” Petersen said.

Democrats and other opponents of the law have said it will reduce health care options for women in a state that already has a shortage of gynecologists. The law could also leave doctors open to criminal prosecution for performing abortions.

This will all likely be put on hold after lawsuits are filed to block the fetal heartbeat abortion law.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter